“In this crucial year for global development, as Member States work to craft a post-2015 agenda and a new set of sustainable development goals, let us do our utmost to eradicate all forms of human exploitation. Let us strive to build a world of social justice where all people can live and work in freedom, dignity and equality.” ~Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
In 2007 the General Assembly of The United Nations proclaimed February 20th as World Day of Social Justice, inviting Member States to devote the day to promoting national activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth session of the General Assembly. Observance of World Day of Social Justice should support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all.
I wonder about the state of affairs in the Social Justice arena with cringe-worthy cynicism. I fear that weariness in a war-torn world will sink us- a collective exhaustion from keeping the wolves at bay.
This year has already proven debilitating on the world peace and social justice front. I worry about leaders of social justice initiatives, agencies, NGO’s, World Food Programme (WFP), Kairos, Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Doctors without Borders, Nurses without Borders, The World Health Organization (WHO) and so many more.
I worry about world leaders in democratic nations. Constantly having to do battle with opposing forces, always pushing through an obscene orgy that is hell-bent on destruction of democracy, freedom and human dignity. Forces called extremism where matters of world peace, and social justice do not exist.
We need to give ourselves permission to be pissed off at people who waste time and seek to undermine our work places, our schools, our faith communities and our everyday, run-of-the-mill life ambitions. We need to summon courage and transmit a little righteous indignation, “Enough! I choose to be a voice for reason! I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
Sadly, we are going to need all the strength we can muster to defeat terrorism through extremist violence. There are millions of displaced persons running for their lives. Running, fleeing, stumbling out of war-torn regions- where filth, famine and fragile mental health don’t stand a chance without the help of social justice champions.
The burden of social justice is a heavy one but bear this burden we must. Indeed, the extremists are at Canada’s door. The United States, France, the Netherlands, England, the Ukraine. No democratic country is immune to extremist violence.
On World Day for Social Justice 2015, we are asked as part of human decency to pause and dig deep. To ask ourselves, “What are we doing as individuals and communities across our country to promote social justice?” NGO’s, or government interventions with funding provisos will not be able to tackle social justice on their own. If Margaret Mead taught us anything, it was to at least try -small groups are, in fact, the magic recipe for change.
The United Nations describes social justice this way. “Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.”
Resources and opportunities to inspire social justice give way to a tired, and weary community. Communities of faith have long been the benchmark for goodwill, and good works by congregational members living their faith in tangible ways. As communities of faith dwindle in numbers, as churches close historic buildings and manses, we are further squeezing the water out of the sponge. What will be left when the sponges are as dry as the deserts of Egypt?
“For the United Nations, the pursuit of social justice for all is at the core of our global mission to promote development and human dignity. The adoption by the International Labour Organization of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization is just one recent example of the UN system’s commitment to social justice. The Declaration focuses on guaranteeing fair outcomes for all through employment, social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work.”
On this 2015 World Day of Social Justice, reach for it. Reach for social justice. Reach for that which inspires you to ‘do something extraordinary in an ordinary sort of way. Grand gestures are not required to nurture the social justice champion inside of yourself. We are a collection of inspired ideas. Find people and organizations that inspire you. Organizations where inspiration has wings, and is making meaningful contributions to a shared vision.
Be that person who lives their faith, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist and all of the colours of the rainbow in religious and ecumenical circles. Live your own mantra. Do good things. Keep doing them, however tired and bedraggled a committee or congregation or chapter you become. Keep believing that all things are possible through a collective wisdom that seeks to support and elevate themes of good works.
As our population in the western world becomes less likely to attend a formal church, a spiritual awakening does continue to thrive. More and more people identify ad being connected in a spiritual way to the world. These institutions of spirit and forces of nature are quite possible an ancient understanding for survival. A long held common conscience that sings out, “Do good”. It is a code travelling through tangled synapses, firing somewhere in the memory muscle of the brain. It renders us, human. We really do, just all want to get along.
Canadian originals, General Romeo Dallaire, Child Soldier Initiative and The Canadian Foodgrains Bank, for example, will continue to work through more and more challenges, emboldened in the face of certain danger. We must find ways to support people who inspire leadership through a living mission that dares to shine a light in a despairing place. We must continue to be the ordinary champions for extraordinary work being done within our own communities and around the world.
We aren’t all made of the stuff of Bill and Melinda Gates. But we ARE all made of the stuff that binds us together as one human family. We can all strive to be better advocates for injustice in our own communities, and regions. We can all strive to be the better part of ourselves. The self that promotes love, and turns away from gossip, and harmful bullies. The advocate that asks, “If not me, then who?”
Live a life that paints your legacy with many colours. A legacy that lives on in perpetuity. A shared legacy of stewardship and champion for social justice.
Reach for it.